Trekking Seats Vs. Mountain Bike Seats and Choosing the One That’s Right for You
One of the most personal components on your bike is the saddle. As one of your main contact points with the bike, the bike saddle or seat is essential for optimizing your riding experience. With the right seat, you’ll be able to get the most out of your bike, improving performance, handling long endurance rides, and winning competitions. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know when choosing between trekking seats vs. mountain bike seats.
Trekking bike seats are lighter and designed for comfort while mountain bike seats are more durable and designed for aerodynamics. Use a trekking bike seat for longer rides on paved or unpaved roads. Use a mountain bike seat for rougher terrain. Trekking bike seats often have cutouts, flexible rails, lightweight shells, mounting brackets, and curved profiles. Mountain bike seats are used for riding on rough terrain with bumps and uneven ground so they have cushions, a streamlined shape, a durable cover, built-in rubber grippers, and shock-absorbing bumpers.
A bike saddle consists of the frame, shell, padding, and cover. The frame supports and connects the saddle to the seatpost, and the padding offers relief and comfort. The shell is the base that forms the shape, while the cover is the outermost layer of the saddle. The construction or materials for these parts will vary across different types of bikes. Finding the most comfortable seat for your bike depends on the bike, cycling discipline, and individual shape and size.
While a saddle makes a world of difference when cycling, the wrong one can not only cause discomfort but even lead to injuries. According to this research paper in the Clinical Sports Medicine Journal, problems related to bike seats, such as skin ulceration or inflammation, chafing, and sit bone pain, are quite common among riders. As a result, it is essential to choose the right seat for your bike. Apart from the seat, another component that helps improve comfort while riding is the handlebar. Our article describing what mountain bike drop bars are. goes into more detail.
What is the Difference Between Trekking and Mountain Biking?
Mountain bikes and trekking bikes are two different bike types with individual strengths, weaknesses, and features. Knowing the difference between the two will help you choose the best bike for you.
Mountain biking involves rough terrain, while trekking usually happens on paved or unpaved roads. Mountain bikes often have more suspension than trekking bikes, and trekking bikes generally have a more upright riding position.
Mountain bikes are designed for cycling through challenging terrains, downhill biking, and bumping through forest and gravel paths. They are rugged and sturdy, featuring extra suspension to handle bumps and vibrations, as well as responsive steering for better grip and control over gnarly and rocky trails. On the other hand, trekking bikes are hybrids between mountain and road bikes. They are extremely versatile and designed for urban use, light off-road riding, and extended bike trips.
There are a few key differences between mountain bikes like these and trekking bikes like these. Mountain bikes are typically heavier and studier than trekking bikes, helping them withstand higher levels of vibration and impact on varied or off-road terrains. Mountain bikes also have a lower and more stretched-out riding position, which makes them more stable and agile on uneven terrain. On the other hand, trekking bikes have a more upright position which is more comfortable for long-distance rides in the saddle.
In addition, mountain bikes have a shorter wheelbase and thicker and wider tires than trekking bikes, providing better grip and handling for navigating obstacles and handling rougher surfaces. Although trekking bikes can go off-road, they are unsuitable for challenging mountain trails. You can easily end up buckling your wheels and bending your bike frame. To find out how to choose mountain bike tires for maximum grip, check out our article.
Trekking bikes usually come fully equipped with lights, luggage racks, and fenders for bike touring trips on paved roads and paths. You can connect additional gear like top tube bags, frame bags, panniers, and handlebar bags. In contrast, mountain bikes are meant for shorter trips and have limited storage space for cargo. However, you can always fit mudguards on a mountain bike as our article on how and why you should put fenders on a mountain bike discusses in depth.
Another difference is the gearing of the bikes. Mountain bikes typically have a one-by, 1x drivetrain like this, while trekking bikes have more gears, usually with two front chainrings and a number of rear cogs. A 1x drivetrain allows for simple gearing and requires less maintenance. On the other hand, the wider range of gears on trekking bikes with a crankset liike this enables the rider to keep a comfortable riding cadence and prevent fatigue on longer trips. To learn more about gear shifters for mountain bikes, read our article comparing trigger shifter vs. grip shifter.
Finally, mountain bikes come with various suspension options, such as hardtail, rigid, or dual suspension. The extra suspension helps absorb impact, making them better suited for grinding over rugged trails and extreme jumping over bumps. For maximum protection on those rugged terrains, read our detailed guide on mountain bike armor pieces.
Trekking bikes, however, don’t feature any special suspension. They are better suited for city commuting, light outdoor riding, and weekend fun trips.
What are the Differences Between Trekking Seats Vs. Mountain Bike Seats?
Trekking seats vs. mountain bike seats are designed for different riding positions, terrains, and disciplines and, as a result, need different types of saddles. The saddle shape, curve, and dimension will vary depending on your type of bike. For the best experience on your bike, it is essential to choose the most comfortable bike seats that’ll offer confidence and support when riding. In this section, we’ll examine the differences between the two bike saddles to help determine the best one for you.
Trekking seats are lightweight, easy to install, and comfortable while mountain bike seats are durable and more aerodynamic.
Here we list the advantages and disadvantages of these two types of seats:
Advantages of Trekking Seats
1. Trekking Seats are Easy to Install and Lightweight
Trekking bike seats like this are particularly great for recreational cyclists as they are lightweight and easy to install. They can be easily fitted onto the bike or replaced when needed, taking only minutes to slot and clamp into place. You can also easily tailor the saddles by adjusting the position and angle to better suit your needs.
Trekking bike seats are constructed with the most lightweight materials to decrease weight while maintaining strength and durability. According to this research from the Imperial Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (IJIR), carbon fiber is one of the most popular construction materials as it offers high tensile strength and low weight. It provides up to 5 times the strength of steel while having about one-third of its weight. As a result, most trekking bike saddles are constructed with carbon fiber. The seats typically feature carbon rails and carbon shells or chassis. The advantage is that they will be lighter and potentially stronger than plastic, polymer, or steel equivalents.
Apart from saddles, the construction of your bike itself also matters. For a comparison between bike frame materials, check out our article on carbon mountain bikes vs. aluminum.
2. Trekking Seats Offer Relief and Comfort for Long-Distance Rides
As trekking bikes are meant to handle long endurance rides on paved or unpaved roads, the saddles are designed for comfort on those trips. The saddles are made using the most comfortable padding while still remaining firm enough for longer commutes or rides. They usually use firmer foam cushioning as it doesn’t compact as quickly as other options.
Trekking seats like this also feature cut outs and unique air vents, which help to relieve pressure on sensitive areas. In addition, they typically have slip-resistant surfaces, which help to provide a solid sitting position so your focus can be on your cycling technique and not on trying to find a comfortable sitting position. Some come with reinforced corners on the cover to prevent rubbing, chafing, or scuffing.
Disadvantages of Trekking Seats
1. Trekking Seats May be too Flexy and Vague
Another downside to trekking seats is that they can feel too flexy and vague. This is usually due to the extra give built into the saddles to help with long rides. Some brands build in rubber bumpers or flex zones, offering added flexibility and cushioning to relieve saddle sores and sit bone pain. Some also make a flexible chassis or flex-tuned shell with a lot of inherent give. These features help to take the sting out of huge impacts and vibrations on rougher road sections. However, they can make the saddle feel too flexy or twangy when pedaling hard.
2. Trekking Seats Can be Expensive
Generally, trekking bikes are more expensive than mountain bikes. This is usually due to higher-quality materials and components. A good trekking bike will cost anywhere from $1000 to $4000. Mountain bikes, on the other hand, have a wide range of prices depending on the construction and components. The cost can range from as little as $500 to $1000.
Due to the higher quality materials for trekking bike seats to help with saving weight and increasing comfort, the seats can also be quite expensive. A strong and lightweight carbon-fiber saddle rail and shell will cost more than a polymer, alloy, or steel construction. Features like cut-outs and better-quality padding like memory foam also add to the price of the saddle. However, considering how much time you’ll spend on the bike, it might be worth it to invest.
Advantages of Mountain Bike Seats
1. Mountain Bike Seats are Durable
Mountain bike saddles like these are designed to handle the toughest of terrains while still maintaining their structure and function. The saddles can clock up to tens of thousands of miles and last for a very long time. They usually feature durable covers made of strong, water-repellent, and breathable materials. One of the common materials for the saddle covers is microfiber which requires low maintenance and helps extend the longevity of your saddle. In addition, some make use of dual reinforcing laminated leather layers for added durability.
2. Mountain Bike Seats are Designed for Optimal Aerodynamics
According to this research paper by Sports Engineering, the major resistive force in cycling is aerodynamic drag which is mainly caused by the cyclist's body size, shape, and position on the bicycle. The other factor responsible for drag is the bicycle itself, from the frame, wheels, and handlebar to other components like the saddle. Therefore, for optimal biomechanics, mountain bike saddles allow for a lower and more aerodynamic riding position on the bike.
Additionally, mountain bike seats usually feature a streamlined, ergonomic shape to improve aerodynamics as you ride. They help reduce aerodynamic drag and enhance the performance of the bike. As a result, they're great for competitive mountain bikers. Another bike component that can affect aerodynamics is bike fenders, as our article on whether mountain bike fenders work discusses.
Disadvantages of Mountain Bike Seats
1. Mountain Bike Seats May be Chunky and Heavy
MTB seats are designed for maximum stability, durability, and comfort on hard climbs and trails, so they usually pack some extra weight. Some can even weigh up to 520g like these. Most MTB saddle rails are made from steel, which is solid and reliable but also heavy. However, steel rails can be easily repaired and welded if damaged, unlike other options, which are unrepairable.
If you're carrying extra luggage and struggling with weight on your MTB, you can look into other options for saving weight. Our article on fixing a mountain bike tool bag that's heavy will come in handy.
2. Mountain Bike Seats May Require a Break-in Period
You usually need to break mountain bike seats in before they become comfortable for rides. Some can take many hours and miles of riding before softening up. This can cause some initial discomfort when cycling. However, with frequent riding, the seat will break in and eventually mold to the rider's weight and shape.
Depending on the construction material, some MTB seats will have shorter break-in periods than others. For instance, synthetic and cotton covers like this typically require a much shorter break-in period than leather covers. However, in this article, Selle Anatomica claims to have perfected a hot-and-dry molding process to create leather saddles that require no break-in time.
How to Find the Best Bike Seat for Mountain Biking
Having the right bike seat can make or break your riding experience. It determines your speed, comfort, and efficiency on the bike. Mountain biking involves cycling through severe off-road trails and requires several positions to handle the terrains. As a result, you'll need a mountain-specific saddle that can handle all your riding needs.
To find the best bike seat for mountain biking, look for a seat with a cushion for sit bones, a streamlined shape, a durable cover, built-in rubber grippers, and shock-absorbing bumpers.
If you're interested in getting a new mountain bike, you can check our article discussing which mountain bike you should buy. Our mountain bike sizing chart will also prove helpful when buying your first bike or upgrading your current bike.
Here we list the features that you need to look out for when choosing a saddle for mountain biking.
Feature 1. Cushioning for Sit Bones
As stated earlier, mountain biking involves riding through rough terrains with wooded trails, bone-rattling roots, rocky areas, and all sorts of obstacles. Trekking seats vs. mountain bike seats are designed more for distance riding rather than durability on rough terrain. Mountain bike saddles are constructed using foams of varying density on different areas to offer support and relief. Some MTB saddles use pressure mapping to determine the best spot to place padding. Some even 3D print a polymer matrix to help relieve pressure points. The best saddle will help to distribute the rider's weight onto their sit bones, decreasing any form of discomfort in other areas.
There are several types of padding used for MTB bikes. Gel padding molds to fit your weight and shape and ensures the bike seat matches the shape of your sit bones. Foam padding has a more pliable and resilient feel. There is also cushioning made from soft foam with gel inlays. For additional comfort, you can place a saddle pad over your saddle.
Feature 2. A Streamlined Shape
One important aspect of a saddle is its shape. Saddles come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to fit different riding disciplines and positions. On mountain bikes, the rider tends to lean forward for a lower and more stretched-out posture. This can apply pressure on the forward part of your pelvic area. Therefore, to help relieve this pressure, flat, long, and narrow saddles like this are best for MTBs.
Saddles with a flat profile and wide, flat nose will work best for faster-paced pedaling and aerodynamic positions. This also gives more real estate for sliding around on the saddle in multiple comfortable positions. The streamlined shape will also help improve aerodynamics and balance weight distribution on particularly steep trails.
You may also find interest in learning how to choose the right mountain bike saddle materials for your needs. Be sure to read our related article to find out more.
Feature 3. A Durable Cover
The best saddle for mountain biking must have a strong and durable cover to handle the miles of off-road riding. In addition, the saddle should have an excellent finish quality that can handle being stretched and suspended between the rails and deal with extra dirt and spray. There are a wide variety of materials used for saddles, including leather, microfiber, rubber and nylon, heat-sealed microtext, synthetic, silk-feel plus, soft-touch high gel, and cotton. Some, like microfiber, are water-resistant. On the other hand, leather, although strong and comfortable, is not waterproof and will require treatment with a conditioner or waterproofer.
Feature 4. Built-In Rubber Grippers
If you prefer to stay in place while riding, look for saddles with grippy portions built into the cover. These saddles feature built-in rubber grippers or elastomers, which help keep the rider locked in place when riding in wet or tough terrains. In addition, the non-slip or slip-resistant surface allows you to have a solid position so you can focus on pedaling and navigating the trails.
Alternatively, you can easily add a little grip tape to a saddle if it's too slippery. You can also wrap grip tape around your handlebars to help with grip. Our article on mountain bike grip taping goes into more detail.
Feature 5. Shock-Absorbing Bumpers
To help withstand riding through harsh conditions, look for a mountain bike seat with shock absorbers and bumpers. The best mountain bike saddle will feature protective bumpers along the saddle shoulders. Some will also have reinforced corners and shock absorbers built into the saddle rails. These features allow you to ride smoothly through rough terrains.
There are several materials that can be used for bike seat shock absorbers and bumpers, including plastic, rubber, metal, and polyurethane. Shock absorbers and bumpers made of polyurethane are best due to their durability, extensive wear abilities, and abrasion resistance.
Summary of Necessary Mountain Bike Seat Features:
|Feature of a mountain bike seat||Why this feature is important||Example with this feature|
|Cushion for sit bones||For optimal comfort while riding||Bikeroo Bike Seat Cushion|
|Streamlined Shape||For improved aerodynamics and efficiency||Ergon Enduro Mtb Saddle|
|Durable Cover||To handle varied harsh conditions and terrains||Fabric Scoop Elite Saddle|
|Built-In Rubber gripper||For increased grip and stability on the saddle||West Biking Non-Slip Cycling Seat|
|Shock-Absorbing Bumpers||To absorb impact from bumps and obstacles||Bel-Air V3 Saddle|
How to Find the Most Comfortable Bike Seat for Trekking
The best trek bike seats not only offer fit and comfort but also have touring-specific features. The trekking bike has developed a niche of its own with tailored components like pedals, groupsets, handlebars, and tires. Saddles have also followed, with many being produced to cater to the unique demands of riding over long distances on paved and unpaved paths. Several factors influence your comfort on those long excursions, so you need to choose carefully.
The most comfortable trek bike seat will have a cut out, flexible rail, lightweight shell, mounting bracket, and curved profile.
These are the features that you should look for when choosing trekking bike seats vs. mountain bike seats:
Feature 1. Cut Out or Relief Channels
For optimum comfort, trek bike saddles like these feature cut outs or relief channels and central grooves. These features help to alleviate and relieve soft tissue pressure in the perineum and sensitive areas for riders. It also helps improve blood flow to vital parts, reducing numbness while riding. For riders who experience pain during long rides, the pressure-relieving design of cut outs will make a great deal of difference. In addition, some cutouts are made with a draining shelf to protect against dirt when riding through wet and muddy conditions.
Feature 2. A Flexible Rail
Saddle rails are responsible for connecting the saddle to the seatpost, serving as the saddle frame. Trek bikes feature flexible rails, which allow the rider to adjust fit by moving the side forward or backward on the bike. This enables you to change positions depending on the terrain or riding condition.
The rails can be made from steel, manganese, titanium, carbon, FeC, Aluminium, or Chromoly steel. Some like titanium and carbon are light while maintaining high tensile strength but can be quite expensive. Others like steel are cheap and easily fixable but heavier. Chromoly rails are light but tend to bend. The best saddles combine low weight, comfort, durability, and high strength.
Feature 3. Lightweight Shell
The saddle shell or chassis determines the saddle's shape and how much it will flex. It is a significant determinant of the weight of the saddle. Trek bikes are designed for sustained rides and carry extra gear, requiring lightweight components. The saddles like this feature light shells to help save weight and increase the bike's stability. Trekking bike saddle shells are usually made of steel, plastic, fiber-reinforced polymer, or carbon fiber. Carbon shells are the most lightweight option.
Feature 4. Mounting Bracket
Going on long-distance rides with trek bikes will usually require you to pack some extra cargo. As a result, trek bike saddles feature integrated mounting brackets or clip systems on the rear. These allow you to attach gear and cargo directly to the bike. In addition, you can easily connect tail lights, seat packs, cargo racks, or frame bags for your trips. The trekking bike is designed with increased stability to handle the additional luggage without affecting steering capability.
If you're going on a trip and thinking of packing some maintenance tools, check out our article on mountain bike tool bag ideas.
Feature 5. A Curved Profile
Saddles are curved in two directions, lengthwise from front to back (saddle wave) or side to side. Saddles have several curve designs to choose from. The best design for trek bikes is a slightly wide saddle with a curved profile. This design offers the best comfort for the upright riding position required on trek bikes. However, the more curved saddles typically have fewer comfortable positions, and so the rider will need to stay in one place on the saddle.
Summary of Necessary Trekking Bike Seat Features:
|Feature of a trekking bike seat||Why this feature is important||Example with this feature|
|Cut outs||To relieve pressure and improve blood flow||Prologo Bike Saddle|
|Flexible Rails||To allow for better adjustability||Tioga Undercover Stratum Saddle|
|Lightweight Shell||To reduce weight and lighten saddle||Ec90 Bike Saddle|
|Mounting brackets||To help pack extra gear||Rockbros Gel Bike Seat|
|Curved Profile||To maximize comfort for upright riding position||Selle Royal Cruiser Saddle|
Tips for Choosing a Comfortable Bike Saddle for Mountain Biking or Trekking
Are you searching for the best bike saddle that offers no discomfort at all? Whether you're a mountain biker, road racer, city commuter, or triathlete, getting the most comfortable saddle is essential for you to get the most enjoyment and efficiency out of your bike and riding trails. In this section, we discuss the most important factors to consider when finding your ideal saddle.
When choosing a comfortable bike saddle, be sure to get a seat that is the correct width, angle, and that has enough cushioning for the type of riding.
According to this research from the Journal of Biomechanics, competitive cyclists are prone to experience saddle discomfort, which can decrease performance and lead to injury but this can be overcome by using a saddle that is perfect for your type of riding.
A common cycling myth is that bike saddles are inherently uncomfortable, and this puts a lot of people off cycling altogether. This is far from the truth. With the right saddle, you can have the most comfortable riding experience, even on long-distance trips. However, newbies to cycling might need some time to adjust to being in the saddle for extended periods of time.
Tip 1. Find the Right Width
Bike saddles come in various shapes and sizes. The saddle width is the distance from edge to edge across the broadest section of the saddle. You need to first determine your sit bone width to get the correct saddle width. This is the distance between the protrusions of your pelvis in contact with the saddle. You can check out this YouTube video tutorial to learn more about measuring sit width and saddle width. Generally, the saddle should not be too narrow or too broad. Too narrow will not offer adequate support, and too wide will cause discomfort like rubbing and chafing.
Tip 2. Adjust the Seat to the Right Angle
According to this article from the 4th Science & Cycling Conference, the right saddle tilt will help improve comfort during uphill climbs. Too much tilt forward will put excessive pressure on your wrists and sensitive areas. Too much tilt backward, and you risk slipping backwards off the bike. It is best to ensure that the saddle is parallel to the ground. To adjust for the right saddle angle, loosen the saddle binder bolt and set the angle as needed using a level like this.
Tip 3. Adjust the Seat to the Proper Height
Another factor to consider is the saddle's height, as it affects the efficiency of your pedal stroke as we explain in our guide on how to choose the proper mountain bike saddle height. Setting your saddle too low will cause pain in front of your knees, while too high will cause pain in the back of your knees, lower back pain, and hips shifting from side to side. At the right height, when your foot is at the bottom pedal stroke, your legs will be slightly flexed (about 10 – 20%). Your knee should also align with your forefoot when at the level 3 o’clock position of the pedal stroke.
A lower position is better with rough trails and downhill biking, while a higher position is often preferred for smooth trails. To improve pedaling efficiency, read through our article on choosing mountain bike pedals for grip.
Tip 4. Choose the Right Amount of Cushioning
Apart from getting the right width, angle and height, you also need to determine the right cushioning for your saddle. More padding doesn't always mean better saddles. This is because thick cushioning tends to compress and deform with use, shifting the pressure and friction from your sit bone to soft tissues. On the other hand, no cushioning can cause a lot of discomfort, especially in the beginning. There are two main types of cushioning – Gel and Foam. While Gel offers better comfort, foam is more durable and resilient.
Tip 5. Determine Your Riding Style and Posture
Choosing a saddle that matches your riding style and posture in terms of padding, shape, and size is ideal. Mountain bikers tend to ride at more aggressively aerodynamic positions, which can increase pressure on the forward part of the pelvic area. In this case, the best saddle will help lighten pressure on those crucial body parts with adequate padding in the front room. Flatter and longer saddles are also best to help accommodate your exaggerated shifting on the bike. More upright positions are favored by trek bikers and require curved-profile saddles and compact padding for maximum comfort.
Tip 6. Consider the Cost
The cost of a saddle will vary depending on the materials used for construction and any extra features. While carbon and titanium saddle rails and shells are lighter and stronger than other materials like steel and aluminum, they are more expensive. Features like cut-outs, grooves, grippers, bumpers, shock absorbers, and mounting brackets will also be reflected in the price. A decent-quality saddle like this will range between $60 and $120. You need to consider how much you have budgeted and get a quality saddle for the price range. Getting a pricey saddle is a wise investment if you're a frequent rider.